The philosopher I chose for my assignment is Ferdinand de Saussure
and his theory of signs. Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist and semiotician who was
born on the 26th of November 1857
and then died on the 22nd February
1913. He was also deemed to be one of the founders of linguistics in the 2oth
His theories laid the foundation for semiotics and his contribution to
the modern linguistics was apprehensible for three key inclinations in the
study of language.
He differentiated between Langue
and Parole, Synchrony and Diachrony, and also between Signifier and Signified.
Saussure also imparted by describing the contrast between syntagmatic and
paradigmatic. This is a part of the theory of associative value.
His theory states that different words are allocated to objects, plants,
and animals, amongst other things, to be able to understand and differentiate between
These “words” were considered as signs in Saussure’s theory and they
were used to organize the concept of linguistics and its structure. His theory
also stated that all language is made up of signs.
The signs are further
divided into two; the signifier and the signified. Saussure stated in his
theory that the signifier referred to the psychological imprint of the sound
and the impression it makes on our senses. This is also known as or referred to
as a “sound-image”. It is how the think about a thing.
On the other hand,
the signified refers to the concept or essence of something but not the literal
object. It specifies in what we think of when we think.
When combining the
signifier and signified you connect the thoughts and the sounds to create the
purpose of language.
Saussure uses these
signs to express the traditional language in the phrase “l’abitraire du signe” to underline the main point of arbitrariness in
the systems, being, the phonological shape of the words
Thus, this allows the non-arbitrariness of the res to transpire with
An example of something that is typically non-arbitrary is the way contrasting
kinds of meaning in a language are conveyed by contrasting kinds of grammatical
structure. This appears when the linguistic structure is elucidated in functional
On the other hand, for a word to be arbitrary, it means that there is no
natural relation between the signifier and the signified. An example of this
would the word “tree”. The letters in the word, t-r-e-e, bear no resemblance to
an actual tree.
Since sings are arbitrary, they must be recognized by a group of people and
agreed on to be effective. An example of this could be all English speakers.
Therefore, some language may have words for concepts that done necessarily
exists in other languages.
Onomatopoeias and interjections are still considered arbitrary since
each language has a slightly different adaptation of them